Life Coaching and Recovery

Life Coaching and Recovery


Life coaching and recovery can be a tricky subject. Many people are opposed to the idea of life coaching because they claim that traditional sponsorship through a 12 step program is superior to coaching. Others feel that they don’t need a coach at all in order to progress in their recovery.

Both of these viewpoints are quite valid, as neither coaching nor sponsorship is a magic bullet in recovery. But having a guide of some sort might still be beneficial for some, especially when it comes to motivation and accountability in early recovery.

Let’s take a deeper look at the idea of coaching and see how it might work with creative recovery:

Is there a difference between a traditional sponsor and a life coach for recovery?

There is a difference. A traditional sponsor from a 12 step program will generally focus on taking the addict through the 12 steps of the program and ultimately bring about a spiritual awakening. This is the role of the sponsor. They are a spiritual guide.

In creative recovery, a life coach is there to unlock the potential within the addict and get them to grow holistically and find their true passion and purpose. They are a holistic guide.

In both cases, there can be a lot of overlap. I personally had a sponsor in a 12 step program who really functioned exactly like a life coach for recovery and pushed me to grow holistically instead of just spiritually. This was unusual though, as most sponsors will not consciously take an holistic approach like mine did.

For the most part, if you seek out a traditional sponsor in a 12 step fellowship, chances are very good that they will focus only on spiritual growth, and if you want to grow holistically, you’ll have to find that drive and motivation from somewhere else (unless you seek out a life coach for recovery).

How can a recovery coach help you transition into holistic living?

By pushing you to grow holistically. This is the essence of good coaching. It is definitely an art form though.

The reason it is an art form is because early recovery is so overwhelming. There is simply no easy way around this fact. The newcomer in recovery is simply overwhelmed with trying to change everything in their life all at once. Quitting the drugs and the alcohol and abruptly changing your entire lifestyle is hard. It’s a lot to handle. And the role of a good recovery coach is to start nudging the recovering addict to go beyond mere abstinence and these huge lifestyle changes and to start growing in new areas of their life. This obviously needs to be handled with care as you don’t want to push too hard too soon. On the other hand, you don’t want to let someone completely coast in their early recovery and start stagnating before they even make any huge strides.

This is the challenge of the recovery coach: of knowing how hard to push someone to grow.

Why coaching is more suitable than sponsorship for creative recovery

Sponsorship is about creating a spiritual experience. Coaching is about creating holistic growth (which includes the spiritual experience). In creative recovery we are seeking to do more than just grow spiritually; we are trying to grow holistically. Therefore it will help to find someone who is geared towards holistic growth if you are interested in following the creative path.

This is not to say that you necessarily need a sponsor or a coach for recovery. But using either of them might help to guide you in your recovery. Sometimes it helps just to have some accountability from someone.

Coaching can help move people along their growth curve faster. Potential talents and strengths can be utilized sooner if there is a skilled coach involved that can help motivate the addict to take certain actions.

Creative theory coaching – the SWOT approach

SWOT is a marketing term that stands for Strenghts, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Normally, a SWOT analysis would be a study that a large company does in order to examine how the business is doing, but in this case we are going to apply it to a person in recovery, as the analogy seems to work perfectly for our needs.


It makes sense in recovery to take a look at an individual’s strengths and then capitalize on them.

What is your gift to the world? What are you truly good at? And how can you use it to help others? These are your strengths.

When I was in early recovery, my sponsor threw me a curveball when he suggested I go back to college. I thought I was supposed to be concentrating on making as many 12 step meetings as possible, but he was encouraging me to go back to school. “Why?” I asked him.

“Because you’re good at it.” he said. And he was right. I used to love school and I like to read and I like to write and I think some part of me even likes to study, if you can believe it. So he pushed me to go back to school.

Another strength of mine that has guided me in recovery is my writing itself. Now I use writing as a way to reach out to other addicts and alcoholics in recovery.

So the first thing a life coach should look at in the recovering addict is what their natural strengths are. Then they must ask the following 3 questions:

1) “How can we capitalize on these strengths and develop them further?”

2) “How can we use these strengths to create a new life for this person?”

3) “How can this new life be used to reach out and connect with other people?”


It’s not always fun to examine our weak points but it is going to be absolutely necessary for some in recovery. For example, take the following 3 examples:

1) The recovering addict or alcoholic who bounces in and out of relationships with alarming frequency.

2) The recovering addict or alcoholic who has social anxiety and is too scared to even attend an AA meeting at all.

3) The recovering addict or alcoholic who is so full of shame and guilt that they refuse to give themselves a break and believe that they deserve happiness.

These are all examples of weaknesses that must be overcome in order to achieve successful, long term sobriety.

Now obviously, the role of a life coach in recovery is to help someone overcome these weaknesses. How can they do this? This will vary greatly depending on the exact situation at hand. Here are some examples of things that a life coach might do to help an addict overcome their weaknesses:

1) Identify major fears and help prescribe actions to help the addict confront them and move past them

2) Identify self defeating behaviors and prescribe actions to help the addict avoid them or find alternatives

3) Identify self defeating attitudes or mindsets and prescribe exercises or daily activities that can help change them over time.


A life coach is really doing their job most effectively when they empower the recovering addict. What does that mean? It means that the coach is merely unlocking the hidden potential that is already there.

For example, say you have a recovering addict who is a gifted speaker that naturally connects with people emotionally when they talk. Such a person might be guided into taking AA meetings into jails, institutions, and treatment centers so that their powerful message is spread to those who need to hear it most. Pushing this person to reach out and connect with others by using this strength would help to boost their recovery immeasurably.

On the other hand, say you have a recovering addict who is more quiet and reserved, but still connects with people in a meaningful way in a one-on-one setting. In this case, the coach might encourage them to eventually start sponsoring or coaching others, or to find alternative ways of helping other addicts.

Ultimately the coach is responsible for pushing the client in recovery to use their strengths and talents to make a difference in the world. They should push and prod them to find their real passion and purpose in life….something that energizes them and gets them excited about living. Finding this purpose and these opportunities might take time, so be patient.


A good coach will be able to identify potential blocks to a person’s recovery. This would include anything under the weaknesses section that could lead to either relapse or stagnation in general. Examples of threats could include things such as:

1) Relationships – being drawn to an old relationship that is no good for you because the other person is still drinking or using drugs. Thinking that you can handle a new relationship in early recovery without any emotional consequences.

2) Overconfidence
– thinking that you are strong in your recovery and taking unnecessary risks (such as going to a bar or to a place where drug use is happening).

3) Minimizing – thinking that our addiction wasn’t so bad, minimizing the consequences of it.

4) Stagnation – falling into a comfortable routine (such as with daily meeting attendance) that is not promoting action and creation

5) Resentments – hanging on to anger about past issues or about people in our lives.

6) Self pity – this goes with stagnation. Feeling sorry for yourself is never productive; never conducive to creation.

These are just examples, there are an infinite number of potential threats or blocks to a person’s recovery. The job of a coach is to identify them and help the addict to work through them.

Action items – what you can do

1) Sponsorship – if you currently have a sponsor in 12 step recovery, start working with them in a holistic manner. Let them know that you are interested in growing in all areas of your life. You could always find a different sponsor who has a more holistic approach as well.

2) Life coach – consider getting a life coach that specializes in recovery. Doing so can help give you the motivation and accountability that you need for your recovery.

I recommend a life coach named Keith Bray.

You can email him at [email protected]

or call him at (905) 477-7972


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